In theory, every NFL game is equally important, with a win or a loss counting in the standings exactly the same whether you beat the crap out of the Jets or struggle your way to a win against the Patriots. In reality, though, circumstance and opponent lengthen the shadows behind certain contests.
This Packers game is one such contest. It’s the first primetime game of the season for the Atlanta Falcons, and their very first game in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s a chance to run their record to 2-0, beat the team they took out in the NFC Conference Championship a year ago, and make more headway toward dispelling the idea of a Super Bowl hangover. A win would also be a blow against a team that will almost certainly factor into the playoff picture in the NFC South, and could pay dividends late in the year when the Falcons are making their own postseason push, or so one prays.
So there are a lot of narratives here, and a lot of reasons to think a win will be a huge boon for the Falcons and their fans. While the Packers got blown off the field in the playoffs by Atlanta, this is a team with two new coordinators and some kinks to work out, and the Packers certainly do not appear significantly diminished this season after dispatching the Seahawks in an ugly battle in Week 1. Chances are good this will come down to the wire, and that a victory will do wonders for this team’s confidence.
Packers vs Falcons Game Info:
Time: Sunday, September 17, 8:20 p.m. EST
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
TV Channel: NBC
Announcers: Booth: Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth Sideline: Michele Tafoya
Live Stream: Watch NFL HD Stream Here
Falcons Keys to Victory
Get Pressure on Aaron Rodgers: Even though the Falcons were able to get four sacks on Sunday afternoon against the Bears, they couldn’t consistently get any push on the defensive line. We truly do have to give credit to the Bears’ offensive line, as the only times Atlanta got to Mike Glennon was when the play broke down. That being said, the Falcons have to play better on the defensive-line against Green Bay. If Rodgers has time to throw the football and go through his progressions, the Dirty Birds will be in major trouble.
Stay Committed to Running the Football: While most people are expecting this to be a shoot-out between Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, I believe that the Falcons’ biggest key to victory will be staying committed to running the ball. Atlanta tried to get the ground game going against Chicago, but the Bears were getting great push on the line and gave Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman zero opportunities for the big play. If the Falcons can end this game around 100 rushing yards, don’t be shocked to see the Dirty Birds knock off the Pack for the third-straight time.
Packers Keys to Victory
Stop Julio Jones: This is probably the biggest “Well Duh” point that I have ever written, but it couldn’t be more true for the Packers on Sunday night. Julio Jones was one of the biggest X-factors in the NFC Championship, as he went for 180 total receiving yards against Green Bay. With major injuries to the Pack’s secondary, Ryan and Jones found a strong connection all game long. That said, Green Bay has to take their chances on double-teaming Jones this weekend. Yes, Atlanta has offensive play-makers all around, but none of them are as dangerous as Jones.
Attack, Attack, Attack: This is an important key for both the Packers defensive unit on Sunday night. When the Falcons offense gets going, it’s extremely hard to stop. That said, they must send pressure on Matt Ryan throughout the entire game. Green Bay doesn’t possess a defensive-secondary that can take over a game, but things can be made easier if the line can get to Ryan. The Falcons’ offensive-line struggled against Chicago last weekend, which means there’s a chance Green Bay can takeover in this aspect of the game on Sunday as well.
Point Spread: Atlanta -2.5
Moneyline: Green Bay +104, Atlanta -105
As usual, the Falcons and Packers are going to give everyone one heck of a football game to watch. With two NFL MVP quarterbacks at the helm, two great coaches and two passionate fanbases, this could be the game of the season.
That being said, I think the Falcons’ will bounce back defensively from a rough first weekend in Chicago and get to Aaron Rodgers multiple times on Sunday Night Football. Atlanta wins this game in exciting fashion.
Pick: Green Bay Packers: 31, Atlanta Falcons 35